Anti-bomb activist slams Australian "hypocrites"
Nobel Peace Prize winner and anti-landmine campaigner Jody Williams has attacked the Australian Government as "hypocrites" for frustrating attempts to ban cluster bombs.
5:00AM Thursday February 21, 2008
By Xavier La Canna
Ms Williams, an American who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work against landmines, made the comments yesterday in Wellington where more than 120 countries are meeting to discuss a treaty to ban cluster munitions.
"They [Australia] should be here honestly and openly to ban the weapons. Don't be here as hypocrites trying to undermine the treaty," Ms Williams said.
Australia was yesterday accused by key pressure group, the Cluster Munition Coalition, of being among 19 nations trying to water down the proposed treaty.
Australia was part of the "bad guys cabal," Ms Williams said, and was working with nations including Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan to weaken the cluster munitions treaty.
Cluster bombs are especially deadly because they contain smaller bomblets that scatter over a wide area. They can lie unexploded for decades, killing and maiming civilians years after a conflict has ended.
The United States, China, India, Pakistan, Russia and Israel have snubbed the Wellington conference.
Ms Williams said Australia and other nations were trying to undermine key provisions in the treaty.
"They are carrying the heavy water for the United States, who aren't here," Ms Williams said.
Her message comes amid growing concern among some non-government organisations about Australia's position.
James Turton, from humanitarian organisation AustCare, said the Australian delegation should go home if they did not want to work to ban cluster bombs. "Australia is being perceived as one of the worst in terms of being counter-productive to the aim of this process," he said.
Some delegates were angered by Australia's attempts to change the wording in a draft treaty to make it easier for defence forces to work co-operatively with nations such as the US, which are not likely tosign up.
Australia has also been accused of trying to change the definition of what constitutes cluster bombs, to exclude weapons that aresensor-fused.
This technology means the bombs have guidance systems and self-destruct if they do not reachtheir targets.
A spokeswoman for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade denied Australia was frustrating efforts at the Wellington conference.
"The Australian Government strongly supports a ban of those cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians," she said.
"We are participating constructively ... to work towards that objective."
Australia last year purchased about A$14 million ($16.3 million) worth of SMArt 155 bombs, which many consider to be cluster weapons.
The bombs, each containing two sub-munitions, are to be used as anti-tank artillery.
But the Australian Defence Force yesterday denied they were cluster weapons.
Von: www.nzherald.co.nz, 21.02.2008